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How to Handle Social Media Complaints with Confidence

What’s the best way to handle social media complaints with confidence?

A staggering 879 million complaints are posted each year on social media by consumers.  Some people rant because they can, or they are letting off steam.  They don’t always need a reply.  But, not having a complaints management strategy for those that do is a risky business.  The chorus of disapproval on social when a complaint isn’t handled correctly, and the potential for comments to go viral, is palpable for brand reputation.

Social Customer Service

People often complain on social because they have had a bad experience elsewhere and are fed up with waiting for a response from teams on other channels. Your social media team could be the last line of defense whatever the problem, and few brands can afford to leave complaints in the unanswered pile. More often than not, businesses that struggle to answer social comments have not invested in the right agent training and customer service technology and they are swimming against the tide.

Take Responsibility

Inertia won’t make the problem go away

If you have set out your stall on social channels you need to own the service you are offering.  Not answering complaints will only amplify anger and make things worse for you and the customer.  Customer care teams who use a dedicated social customer service tool to prioritize and route complaints are able to quickly respond to customers, repair relationships and douse potential social media storms.

Hold back on the delete button

Never delete a comment or post.  Be open about criticism and talk in channel.  Your response shows that you take complaints seriously and people will see that you want to fix problems when things go wrong.

Motivate Your Agents

Diffuse Anger

Sitting on the social customer service frontline is never easy when dealing with complaints.  Customers want fast resolution and brands need to ensure their agents are motivated to fix often complex issues. When things go wrong consumers don’t want to pick up the phone. Increasingly, they are heading straight to social.  Encourage your agents to diffuse initial anger by offering a direct apology. It also helps to use their name or initials in responses. Personalization like this shows customers that they are talking to a real person, as well as showing empathy.

Stay in Channel

When possible, encourage agents to answer your customers on their chosen channel. There’s nothing worse than asking someone who’s not best pleased in the first place to switch channels if they don’t have to.  If they send a tweet, and it can be answered on Twitter then do so.  Sometimes, though, you need to empower agents to shift between channels as conversations develop. Complete the service loop on the original channel to check the customer is happy with the outcome.

Use Humor

Using humor can be a powerful rescue remedy.  It can help to change the tone and direction of complaints and fix relationships.

YO Sushi tries to pour cold water on its customer’s tepid experience here.

Yo Sushi social media

Go the Extra Mile

Brands occasionally go the extra mile to make amends with freebies.  It’s win/win.  The customer gets a treat and forgets their bad experience. Their friends, and just about anyone else who reads the conversation, also see that the company is listening and cares.

Pret A Manger changes a negative into a positive here with a well-timed gift card.

Pret social media example 

Is this really a complaint?

Have clear guidelines in your social media playbook on when to escalate a complaint to senior managers, legal or PR teams and how to deal with offensive language. Include examples of how other brands approach complaint handling to help with ongoing agent training.


Compliance, legal and PR teams will need access to full conversation histories on social channels and archive data to monitor complaint resolution. Your social customer service tool should have engagement tags and advanced reporting functionality to analysis interactions.

Bridging the Gap: Customer Expectations

42% of customers who post a complaint on Twitter expect an answer within an hour

Try to connect a customer with a live agent as quickly as possible.  Using a social customer service tool, which has intelligent workflow, routing and automation will speed up response times on complaints.  Set keyword automation around complaint language to prioritize mentions in agent queues.

70% of people who post a complaint would like a response, just 38% receive one

One of the biggest routes to failure is expecting your support team to effectively manage social conversations without intuitive tools to make it easy to manage them.  If agents are trawling through mentions, genuine complaints will be missed in all the hoopla.  Again, smart workflow and automation in your app to simplify agent inboxes and prioritize urgent comments will make sure you don’t miss a beat.

31% of tweets containing company names don’t include their Twitter handles

Make sure you are also monitoring outside of @accounts.  You can’t respond to a complaint you don’t know about.  Use a social customer service tool for keyword searches to listen outside of your owned social pages.

10% of people post complaints to review sites, 12% to forums and 2% to blogs

Think beyond Twitter and Facebook.  Blog, forum, and review site monitoring gives you a panoramic view of the issues people are facing with your products and services.  You may be surprised.